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After Big Wins In The West, Sanders' Path Is Steep But Not Impossible

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had a big weekend, winning by large majorities in the Democratic caucuses in Hawaii, Washington state and Alaska. But overall, that doesn't change the race for the Democratic nomination much. Hillary Clinton still has more pledged delegates than Sanders. NPR's Domenico Montanaro joined Sam Sanders and Tamara Keith on NPR's politics podcast to talk about Bernie Sanders's situation.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: The math is still the math, and Bernie Sanders needs to have the kind of day he had Saturday in all of the rest of the contests. He went into that day needing 58 percent of all delegates that remained for a pledged delegate majority. He now needs 57 percent of all delegates remaining. Possible? He needs to have big days in a lot of different states where he won't be favored in the same kind of ways, primaries in places like New York, New Jersey, California.

Wisconsin he's thought to do pretty well and needs that kind of margin as well. But going forward, he's going win a lot of places over the next 10 weeks. There's going to be a lot of talk about his momentum, and it's hard to find a place or two or three where Hillary Clinton is going to win.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: And it seems like with these states coming up - Wisconsin, Wyoming, New York - Sanders's team plans to make a really strong play for New York, right?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yes. They have opened up a campaign office in Brooklyn, which happens...

MONTANARO: ...It's a little hard trolling, right?

KEITH: Well, yeah, that's exactly...

SANDERS: ...I mean, he is from Brooklyn though.

KEITH: He did grow up in Brooklyn. He's really from Vermont.

MONTANARO: He might find...

KEITH: ...Vermont is home. But Brooklyn...

MONTANARO: ...He might find a different kind of Brooklyn now (laughter).

KEITH: Yes, but he did grow up in Brooklyn. Hillary Clinton, of course, has her headquarters in Brooklyn as well. So he is also pushing to get a debate held in New York sometime before New York votes. And Hillary Clinton has won New York twice. She was a popular senator. She - people liked her. Bernie Sanders is not saying you can have that one.

SANDERS: So Domenico, you made this argument that no matter what happens to Bernie Sanders in this campaign, he has already won.

MONTANARO: In a lot of ways, he has. I mean, the issues that he's brought up, whether it's regulating banks, getting money out of politics and a host of other things - leveling the economic playing field, for example - he has really pushed that message. It's going to be something that's going be part of the Democratic platform.

You know, this path for Bernie Sanders exists. It's real. But it means that he's going to have to take the kinds of majorities he got on Saturday and push that out through a lot of contests that are coming up in some places that aren't necessary open as much to Bernie Sanders's demographic or message as other states have been.

KEITH: Well - and also, they aren't even open primaries. They're closed primaries where he hasn't...

SANDERS: ...Which favors Clinton, right?

KEITH: Exactly.

MONTANARO: And caucuses where he has done very well. Remember, all three of those contests over the weekend were caucuses.

SANDERS: Yeah.

MONTANARO: They drive a lot of activist turnout. Primaries in the Northeast - that day in particular when New York votes on April 19 and then April 26 with some of those other states in the Northeast - going to be a very big test for Bernie Sanders.

And then you look at California on June 7. Bernie Sanders - even if he wins these big majorities all the way through June 7, he's still going to need 57 percent of all the delegates on that final day, June, 7, that second-to-last weekend...

SANDERS: In California.

MONTANARO: ...Of voting. He's going to need - California - 57 percent of the delegates there because they have 475 pledged delegates, a huge cache of delegates. That's when he would actually turn the tables.

SANDERS: So all that to say this race is not over yet.

MCEVERS: That's the NPR politics podcast team. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.